Don’t turn a blind eye to the earthquakes in Turkey

Damla Gunes, Contributing Writer

As you may have heard on the news, one of the worst disasters of the last decade happened in my home country of Turkey, known officially as Türkiye, on Feb. 6. Not just one, but two earthquakes with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.6 occurred nearly back-to-back and caused tremendous damage to Türkiye and Syria.

As of Feb. 14, the death toll is estimated to be more than 40,000 and at least 24 million people are affected. The earthquake hit southeast Türkiye and caused considerable destruction to ten cities: Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa. Immediately after the incident, Türkiye called for international help. However, there are still so many people waiting for that aid.

Imagine trying to rescue your family from under the rubble, having no idea if they are alive. Imagine being a little kid and being rescued, only to learn that your whole family is dead. Imagine being a teenager and putting your family in a grave. How is this fair? Who is to blame? The nature? The faith? The government? The contractors? There are thousands of people dead, thousands of families destroyed and thousands of facilities gone and yet we are still trying to blame someone; whatever we do we cannot bring those people or places back.

Currently, all types of schools are closed until Feb. 21. Universities switched to online education because the government decided to give college dorms and facilities to the earthquake victims. Many schools announced that they will sponsor the education of the students who have suffered from this disaster, including the high-school I graduated from in Bursa. Sports stopped playing at every level.

According to an article from Al-Monitor, the economy was also affected immensely. The piece states that the destroyed apartments are worth around $6.3 billion and the other buildings that are now unusable may balloon that cost to $10 billion. Even the citizens all over the country stopped going out because they are mourning.

As of Feb. 14, The New York Times states over 40,000 deaths were reported from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Rescue operations are still ongoing. (VOA/Wikimedia Commons)

Since the earthquakes, every citizen has been trying to help the area with donations. Every part of the country is just working to help the affected area by collecting and donating clothing, money, tents, blankets, baby food, food, diapers, heaters, shoes; in short, everything.

Plus, many countries are sending help to Türkiye, such as Greece, Italy, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States, South Korea, Algeria, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Norway, Pakistan, Qatar, Sweden, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and more. The Turkish community in the U.S. has also been working diligently to collect all types of donations and material needed for the area; they sent their collected aid to Türkiye through Turkish Airlines.

In the first 24 hours following the earthquake, citizens and family members couldn’t get any information because the phone lines were down and help didn’t reach the area the way it was supposed to. In these types of incidents, time is everything. You are basically trying to rescue people as quickly as possible. Yet, some people still do not know if their parents, relatives or friends are alive.

The rescue efforts are ongoing, but due to the area’s size, it is still not under control. In some cities, airports are currently being used as hospitals. Above all, the area is one of the harshest environments in Türkiye. Some people who survived froze to death because of the cold. The weather is approximately between 20 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit, which is between -7 and 8 degrees Celsius. These are some of the reasons people are calling this one of the biggest disasters of the last decade.

I know what it feels like to leave your home, leave your family and friends to pursue your career goals. I was sharing a very similar lifestyle with them … They were just teenagers. They had their life goals, they had their dreams, now it is all gone.

— Damla Gunes, contributing writer

Alongside the tragedy itself, volleyball, the sport I gave my life to also brought bad news. There were a group of girls who happened to be in that area of Türkiye because of a tournament. A big part of the volleyball community in Türkiye is located around that area. I know what it feels like to be 13 to 14 years old and going to a tournament with excitement. I know what it feels like to leave your home, leave your family and friends to pursue your career goals. I was sharing a very similar lifestyle with them. I left my family and friends to pursue my goals when I decided to commit to the Quinnipiac University volleyball team. I know what it feels like to leave your comfort zone and struggle just to be successful. They were just teenagers. They had their life goals, they had their dreams, now it is all gone.

What a tragedy, right? But how much do people outside of Türkiye care or know about the whole situation? People don’t even realize how severe the situation is. When I read the news about the earthquake, I was so worried I immediately called my parents to check in, even though I knew they were not affected by this incident because we live in the northwest of Türkiye.

That morning, some people asked me if my family was OK, and when I said yes, they didn’t care to ask about how I was. I was devastated. My heart was ripped apart. So many emotions were going through my body. I didn’t know if I was supposed to feel happy because my family was not affected; but how could I? My country, a part of my heart, was in severe condition. The people who were speaking the same language as me were suffering. I couldn’t put the words together when explaining myself. I was scrolling through social media, watching the news and just crying because I was far away and I couldn’t help. I imagined how I would be if my family and friends were affected.

Fellow Turkish students and I tried to raise awareness and spread the news here at Quinnipiac too, however very few people reached out to check in, which broke my heart even more. If a catastrophic incident happened close to Quinnipiac, everyone would go insane. They would share hashtags for awareness, donate to the families who suffered and start protesting. I am not expecting anyone to do this for Türkiye, but I hoped at least the people I called friends would have reached out to me and offered their help.

This week as Turkish students, we wanted help from the QU community and reached out to President Judy Olian, International Student Services, the Department of Cultural and Global Engagement and the Quinnipiac Athletic Department, who all agreed to support us. We have discussed our ideas about how to help the affected victims and raise awareness. In the following weeks, Turkish students will start collecting donations to help their country and will be expecting the QU students and faculty members to help them.

On Feb. 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Turkish students will do tabling in the Carl Hansen Student Center. Our goal is to raise money and donate this money to the victims of the earthquake by sending it to the most reliable source in Türkiye named Ahbap. We’re also planning to give away some donuts in exchange for donations. We hope you’ll make a visit to our table and show some respect and appreciation. We’re also planning a bigger event soon with the support of QU faculty members in the Piazza. 

With all of these factors considered, I think everyone can relate to how Turkish people feel, how heartbroken we are. By all counts, this terrible disaster could have happened to anyone, that’s why we need to spread awareness all over the world.